Hundreds of people lined the streets from Tampa to Palm Harbor today to pay respects to Zack Shannon, as the Dunedin soldier’s body made its way back home from Afghanistan, where he died in a helicopter crash this month.
The motorcade ferrying Shannon’s body began at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and ended at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor, where his family held a private service.
Clusters of civilians and soldiers could be seen from the intersection of State Road 60 and McMullen-Booth roads. Some knew Shannon, others didn’t. The crowd was at its thickest along the stretch of Pinehurst Road that skirts Dunedin High School, where Shannon graduated in 2010. Shannon’s family members, who rode in a white stretch limousine behind the hearse that transported his body, said they were surprised to see so many people out to honor him
“We were very touched,” said Kim Allison, his mother. “I knew that there was a parade route along Pinehurst, but throughout the whole route I was very surprised. …I’ll never forget this.”
The crowd braved the blustery, unseasonably chilly morning air to pay their respects.
Clearwater resident Chris Maggs, an Afghanistan veteran, didn’t know Shannon but joined the crowd at the corner of McMullen Booth and S.R. 60, braving an unseasonably chilly and windy morning to pay its respects.
“He died for our country and that’s the ultimate sacrifice,” Maggs said. “The least we could do was come out and say goodbye to him.”
Likewise, in Shannon’s hometown of Dunedin, where the City of Dunedin Pipe Band played a droning, emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace,” many of those who packed either side of Pinehurst had never met him.
“We don’t know Zack, we don’t know his family, but we’re here to show our support, pay our respects, and say ‘thank you,’
Throughout Dunedin, businesses ranging from Spoto’s restaurant to a nondescript convenience store on Pinehurst sported tributes to Shannon, and a small banner hanging at the corner of Main Street and Broadway downtown called him “our hero.”
John Paradis, who said he had known Shannon since he was 10, said he’s not surprised at the outpouring of support.
“Welcome to Dunedin,” he said. “We’re a very small, close-knit town. If you didn’t know him, you knew somebody that knew him. That’s just the way this town is.”
On Wednesday, a horse-drawn carriage will bring Shannon’s body to Dunedin Cemetery, where Shannon will be buried.